The Charities Regulatory Authority (‘CRA’) introduced the Charities Governance Code (‘the Code’) in late 2018. When releasing the Code the CRA set out a timeline for implementation:
- 2019 was intended for education regarding the Code.
- 2020 is the first year in which compliance with the Code is expected.
- 2021 is the first year in which charities are expected to report to the CRA with regard to compliance.
The Code was introduced by the CRA to improve its oversight of charities and to encourage the better administration of charities.
The Code sets out six principles of charity governance with which charities are expected to comply:
- Advancing the charitiy’s charitable purposes.
- Behaving with integrity.
- Leading people.
- Exercising control.
- Working effectively.
- Being accountable and transparent.
The Code gives details of standards expected for compliance with each principle. The compliance standard for each principle is divided between “Core Standards” and “Additional Standards”. All charities are expected to comply with Core Standards while only “Complex Charities” are expected to comply with the Additional Standards.
Whether a charity qualifies as a Complex Charity is not clearly defined in the Code. Each charity is expected to make a subjective decision based on indicators set out in the Code without any further explanation as to the extent to which these indicators need apply for the charity to be considered Complex. These indicators are:
- The charity’s income; and,
- The number of employees, and,
- The complexity of the charity’s activities (e.g. working with vulnerable people, operating overseas, having large numbers of volunteers).
Given the vague nature of the indicators, charities should consider being cautious and complying with the Additional Standards (particularly in areas that may be specifically relevant to their charity).
Charities need to also be aware that there may be compliance standards required for their specific sector that are more detailed than those set out in the Code. For example, approved housing bodies are subject to the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019. Compliance with Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government’s voluntary regulations is also essential to access state funding.
Compliance Record Form
Appendix 2 of the Code publishes the Compliance Record Form (‘the Form’). This is a very useful checklist. The CRA expect the Form to be discussed at board meetings and the completed form to be approved by the board on a yearly basis. The completed form together with supporting documentation is to be held by the charity as evidence of compliance with the Code.
The Form lists the Core Standards and Additional Standards required to comply with Code and asks for the charity to set out the actions taken by the charity to comply with each standard and the charity’s evidence of same.
The Code itself does not specifically set out what actions or evidence are required for compliance with each standard however guidance can be taken from the details of the principles set out in the Code A sample completed Form published on the CRA’s website as a useful reference tool.
Each individual standard cannot be discussed in great detail in one article. Charities should contact their legal advisors to discuss compliance with the Code and the individual standards set out in the Compliance Record Form, so they are as prepared as they can be for compliance with the Code. Good governance is the cornerstone of the Code and the key foundation for the smooth operation of any charity.